Twelve Ways to Drive Tower Controllers up their Glass Walls

1. Equip your aeroplane with at least one very poor quality radio which will transmit nothing but squawks and squeals. (It's important to use a good receiver so that you can hear the Controller trying to reach you). The busier the airport the better, because your unintelligible gibberish will block out everyone else, and if you really work at hogging the frequency, the traffic congestion will grow to unbelievable proportions in short order. No fair looking at the tower cab during all this, since they will n doubt hit you with a flashing white light (return to the ramp) in an effort to unclog the jam-up. When you figure the Controllers have had about as much as they can take, switch to your good transmitter and say eagerly, "How do you read this transmitter?". You will be cleared for an immediate takeoff, with the Controller's best wishes for an extended cross-country... One way.

2. Make your initial call to a busy Tower: "...ten miles east", when you are really ten miles to the west of the airport. The Controller will schedule your entry and pattern sequence from the east, so wait until you're no more than two miles out to let him know your true position, then watch him scramble to readjust things. Besides, this will give other pilots some real-world practise at dodging head-on traffic.

3. This is a variation of the call-in-from -the-wrong-direction trick. Pick a very busy day and wait until you're only two miles from the airport to call the Tower. It doesn't matter a whole lot from which direction you approach when  you're in this close and an unexpected entry into a pattern full of aeroplanes is in itself enough to set off some frantic controlling. There's a reasonable chance that you'll get a landing clearance ahead of everybody else. The Controller may consider that getting you on the ground in short order is the lesser of two evils.

4. Equally effective on the ground or in the air, this little gem requires a specific set of circumstances; namely, when several aeroplanes are getting ready to taxi, or when you find yourself at the end of a long line of inbounds to a terminal seething with airborne traffic. On the ramp, for example, you should wait until for at least four or five pilots ahead of you have called "ready to taxi" and each of them has been patiently briefed by the Ground Controller on the runway, winds and altimeter setting. (Really brown it up by waiting for a day when the Controller is bound by local policy to advice you of "man and machines working both sides of the parallel taxiway, heavy construction equipment crossing the taxiway two thousand feet from the departure end of the departure end of the runway, taxi on the right side to avoid fresh paint on the centreline of the taxiway.") Even though you've heard all the good news five times and could repeat it verbatim, don't bother to tell ground that you "have the numbers"; just call in "ready to taxi" and see if he can do it all over again without loosing his cool.

5. Here's one that's a mettle tester for Controllers and fellow aviators. It will work only when you're number one for takeoff at an airport logging an arrival or departure every minute or so. When the Tower advises that you're "cleared for immediate takeoff", go through your before-takeoff checklist once more just to be sure you haven't missed anything, then ever so slowly start moving towards the runway. There aren't many Controllers who will be able to contain themselves, especially if you amble out onto the centreline just in time to make the guy on short final go around.

6. Fly out-of-sight patterns. Turn downwind when the airport is just barely visible on the horizon, extend it to the limit of prevailing visibility, don't turn base until fuel exhaustion becomes a possibility and fly the final approach as slowly as possible. This will test the Controllers vision as well of his sense of fair play, for a sneaky one may try to land several flights ahead of you. When the Tower asks you to extend your pattern so he can get a couple of long suffering departures off the ground, that's the time to cut 'er close.  A sure way to find out if the Controller knows that aircraft on final approach have right of way.

7. After landing at a completely strange airport (the bigger and more complex the better), don't bother to ask Ground Control how to get to where you want to go, just say "34 Alpha to the ramp" as though you know the airport like the home 'drome, and drive down the nearest taxiway. More than likely you'll soon be involved nose-to-nose with a DC-10 or something equally non-turnaround able and then let the Controller unscramble things. A variation of this ploy is to turn onto an active runway and see if the men in the Tower notice. A great way to find out if they're controlling traffic of playing Chinese Checkers.

8.There are two ideal situations that will get you the most out of this one, and if you set it up correctly, you might even combine them for twice the effect. In the first case, you should be leading a parade of several aircraft down the approach to a long runway, with one taxiway within a thousand feet or so of the approach end, the other one a mile and a half away at the far end. When you're cleared to land, slow up so that all the people behind you have to S-turn, slow-fly and make 360's, then land on the threshold, roll slowly past the first turnoff and go all the way to the other end at no more that twenty miles per hour. Listen carefully to see if the Controller can handle himself with aplomb as he orders three or four missed approaches.
    The daily double is yours when there is a gaggle of planes lined up waiting for takeoff. By landing short and rolling long you will also cause then to be delayed, further complicating the Tower's problems. I this game has points, you'd get a bagful for putting these two together.

9. Here's another way that may blow a Controllers mind when the pattern is bank-full; wait until you're well established on final approach with two or three behind you, then let the tower know you've changed your mind, this one will be a full stop. Of course, you must have set him up with a long series of touch and goes before you drop the bomb. What the heck - those pilots behind you needed some go-around practise anyway.

10. "Tower, 34 Alpha ready for takeoff" when you are number ten in line isn't so bad, but you've only begun; as soon as everybody moves up a notch, call the Tower again and repeat every time the line advances. By the time you get to the head of the class, you may have a Controller tearing his hair.

11. Wait for a true fair-weather day when everybody and his brother are out flying and the airport is the centre of attention for a swarm of propeller-driven bees. from ten miles out, call the tower and identify yourself, making sure to specify your exact position (say "ah-h-h" between landmarks while you look over the side to make sure), taking as much time for this transmission as possible. as soon as the Controller has digested that meaningless information, he'll ask you if you're landing at his airport, whereupon you execute the master stroke by informing him that you are just requesting permission to pass through his Control Zone.
    You know that Control Zones are of concern only when the airport is reporting less-than-basic-VFR weather, but does he know that? A Controller whose goat is easy to get will ask you to report entering and leaving the 'zone', which gives you the opportunity to bug him several more times, but most Tower people figure it's less trouble to clear you through than explain that they don't really care - especially when they find that you're flying at 9500 feet above the ground. Want to drive the bother spike a bit deeper? Call the Tower when you're five miles out whether ha asks you to or not, hit him again directly overhead and once more at the five miles point outbound. If you can operate this procedure with Trick No. 1, the unreadable transmitter, you'll have done a bang-up job.

12. Last in the even-dozen of Tower-teasing tricks is another variation of a theme. When you complete your high pass a-la No. 11, turn around and come back the other way, but at an altitude of 1000 feet AGL. This time you're right down there with 'em, well under the 3000-foot ceiling of the Airport Traffic Area. If at all possible, push the aeroplane past the legal speed limit of 156 knots (so they won't be able to put the binocs on your registration number as you smoke by the Tower), fly right over the middle of the field (no sweat, you're all of 200 feet above pattern altitude - if any students or Sunday flyers aren't paying attention to their altimeters and get a little high on downwind, that's their problem) and of course you're not going to bother the Controller for permission to fly through his back yard. Do keep your receiver on Tower frequency though; you'll be the subject of an interesting one-way conversation, and you can eavesdrop the frantic warnings to the student on downwind who's followed by a Sunday flyer, and they're both a little high..




Last updated: 29 July, 2003 16:31